It’s not you, email. It’s me.

you have mail

Times they are a-changing.

I attended a tech conference in Utrecht today to hear IBM’s Luis Suarez, a man who rather famously purged his work life from the hell of email time suckage after constantly battling his inbox, no doubt plum full of other people’s to-do items.

I quickly googled “email sucks” and got this useful blog entry, which I totally agree with.

Suarez told us that communication can be achieved outside of email in a much more efficient (i.e. less insane) manner. For example, we can pick up the telephone, walk by someone’s desk for a quick chat, use an instant messaging service, or communicate through our company’s social networking platform. Now, many companies are still warming up to (eek!) allowing employees to post their unbridled thoughts for all colleagues to see, but as I listened to him, I started to feel exuberant about abandoning this utterly ADD habit of emailing each other all the livelong day. I began daydreaming of just turning on my out-of-office with the simple auto-reply:  “If this email is not a confidential matter, it will be deleted. Please post it on my wall for everyone to see and respond to if they so wish.”

This fantasy was admittedly plagued by my suspicion that having people post on my wall instead of emailing me is the same wolf in different sheep’s clothing, but I do believe that there is something to be said about this new method. Mainly, it brings transparency to people’s work, eliminates the amount of political bullshit we have to endure through private emailing, and most of all, makes us think before we post for all to see (at least for now..). And besides, if we don’t think before we post, really, what’s there to hide except our own incompetence, which should be known by our colleagues sooner than later anyway? We should stop hiding so much in business. It’s paranoid, backwards, and inhibits creativity and innovation. Of course one-to-one confidential or personnel emails are exceptions, but I agree with Suarez that most emails are nothing other than a bee in one’s bonnet.

The Full Monty
About three months ago, I learned a time-management method of keeping my inbox totally clean by the end of the day, and I’ve latched onto it with glee. I  cheekily spam my colleagues with screenshots of my empty, end-of-day inbox in an attempt to convert them. But even with this improvement, the emails don’t really go away. They just get redistributed into my calendar so I can respond when I chose to. I have silently revolted against other people’s deadlines, but Suarez’s method is already begging me to take the next step.

There are so many things about business that I abhor, but this is one business revolution that pumps me up. If we can start communicating with each other in a more transparent, creative and collaborate way, then maybe someday business will be for the joy of business and innovation in and of itself, as well as the benefit of finding solutions that increase our time in the hammock . The amount of email we have to respond to in a day is clearly representative of our being cogs in a machine, a machine that often doesn’t know its ass from its ‘busy’ work.

I’m willing to dump my email for a few months, just to see how it goes. I will keep you posted on my adventures.

To learn more about the email revolution: 

One comment

  1. webpatser

    The last few weeks I am trying this:

    Read email only twice a day; first thing in the morning, and just before I leave. Mail is not meant to be instant…
    Use collaboration tools as much as possible so everyone knows what everyone is doing. Transparency is important…
    Use instant messaging for small requests or when you need information. Short lines…

    But most important.. For 3 hours during the day I am offline. After lunch from 1300 – 1600 I dedicate to getting things done (GTD)…

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